My summer reading, so far

Mary Beard: SPQR

I had rather high expectations for this book: well-known and highly regarded author, possibly with a refreshing, feminist views, and so on. But I found it somewhat disappointing. It is not clear no me what the focus of the book is: it is at some level a general story of Rome; then it is a story about the decline of the republic - but neither story seems to come to an end or be very complete. Also, why does she not discuss the clientela theory at all? It may out of fashion, but it is central to the discussion about the decline of the republic.

Michael Steinberger: Au Revoir to All That

A bit of a strange book. Well-written and knowledgeable about all things French food. It is, however, also clearly a collection of not-too-connected pieces that originated somewhere else. Sure, he loves France well-enough - but is there some sort of political undertone, very anti-statist and quasi-libertarian? But, nevermind. What is interesting is that his doomsday vision now seems to be something from a very specific period in time. Yes, there are young French chefs that do molecular (even if that is a bit dated by now). The locavore movement exists there. So does lots and lots of influence from the Far East as well as from the Middle. The bistronomy movement revives and reinvigorates the traditions, and does it at fairer prices. Even though the Frenchies love them some Mickey D's, there are also genuine American BBQ joints. Right there, in gay Paree. What is going away is probably the stuffed-up and dusty old palaces of gastronomy where you had to mortgage your sould to partake of food that was reasonably unspired and uninspiring. But if you so desire, look no further than Le Cing. You can still get it. As for the book: an easy enough read, but as time moves forward, less and less relevant.

Adrian McKinty and John Connolly

Irish noir, I suppose. In the rainy season that they call summer here in Denmark, I had plenty of time to go through all of McKinty's Sean Duffy novels, as well as the first four of Connolly's Charlie Parker series. They are surprisingly different. McKinty benefits mightily from setting his stories in freont of the rich tapestry and the Troubles around 1981, and placing his Papist protagonist in the RUC and all-proddy Carrickfergus. But Duffy is, in the end, a younger, less jaded Rebus, and there may redemption for him at the end, and marital bliss. Connolly sets his stories in a dark America that still reeks of the Old Religion and is really weird. As the series move forward, it is less of a crime or detective series, and gets into being a moral fable about compassion, revenge, redemption, et cetera. It ever there were a flawed hero, Charlie is it (as well as his merry entourage of Louis and Angel). But lots of suspense and technically well-crafted, albeit the themes get a little monotonous with time.

Tags: